Fendant 2014, Valentina Andrei, Valais (chasselas)
On a quick visit to one of my favorite wine stores, Le Passeur du Vin in Geneva, I came across this little bit of history modestly floor-stacked among the new arrivals: the first vintage from Valentina Andrei’s eponymous winery.
A transplanted Romanian, Ms. Andrei is already a bit of a legend in these parts for her quick ascent to natural wine stardom and her passionate commitment to biodynamics. She earned her stripes at the legendary vineyards of Jacques Granges (Domaine de Beudon), the dean of biodynamic vignerons, and at the Domaine la Liaudisaz of Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, the other half of Swiss biodynamie’s Mount Rushmore.
She currently works three hectares of Valais vines and produces approximately 7000 liters of wine from a tiny garage in the village of Riddes. Her equipment is limited and rudimentary: a manual press, an upright cuve, a few 300 liter tanks and several barriques. Her methods are hands-on: she literally destemmed the entire 2014 red grape harvest berry by berry in order to deliver each one intact. To preserve freshness she bottled her current white wines without a secondary fermentation and without added sulfites. As a side note, the label depicted is provisional. Moving forward the fendant will use the proprietary name “Eclipse” and also feature the artwork of Etienne Krähenbühl. This is a wonderful start to what should be a fabulous career I look forward to following.
The wine: Pale straw color. A Chablis look-a-like upon first impression. Mineral-driven earth and fresh mushroom nose with lemon and herbs. Very bright, focused and linear. The palate offers briskly sharp citrus fruit (lemon), mineral salt, and subtle bass notes of mushroom and miso. (Stylistically similar to the whites of Domaine de Beudon). With air the wine begins to exude an herb garden freshness from its citrus core. The typical saline (brine) character of chasselas from the Grand Crus of Lavaux are distinct from the lemon zest forthrightness of fendants from the Valais. Very structured for chasselas but very likely to develop both texture and body with time. This is one that needs a bit of age.
For the curious: The Geneva wine store Lavinia will be hosting a dinner with Valentina Andrei and her current releases. The event is scheduled for April 21, 2016 and the cost is CHF 90. Click on the link for more information.